Ben Watt – Hendra

Universal, 2014

Formerly half of Everything But The Girl, Watt goes back to his folk-rock roots armed with a guitar, occasional synth and his gentle voice. It’s a quiet affair, full of intimacy, and though the guitars will get crunchy and blues influenced, it always comes back to his sparse and emotive singing. It’s a far cry from his former band or work as a DJ, but the life stories expressed here unfold with a stark beauty that’s so immediately memorable.

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Ani DiFranco – ¿Which Side Are You On?

anidifranco-whichsideareyouonRighteous Babe, 2012

Perhaps the most fiercely independent female voice ever, DiFranco’s 17th studio album continues on with her robust guitar playing, charming melodies and insightful wordplay that alternates between playful and political. With an all star cast of contributors, including Pete Seeger who lends a hand on the title track that he popularized 5 decades ago, DiFranco meshes equal parts folk, rock and funk elements in an elegant, mature and beautifully textured manner. Even though this is a very gentle, soothing listen, there exists a lot of subtle power in DiFranco’s songcraft.